Why Urgency for Cloud Went to 11

What the Executives Aren’t Telling You

Congratulations! You own “the cloud platform” for your company. Maybe you applied for the role. Maybe you got volunteered. Most of you are just doing the job because somebody has to.

Regardless, your job is simple: lay tracks in front of a speeding freight train without getting flattened. (I said the job is simple, not easy.)

Why did the company put you in this position? Why are they asking you to move legacy workloads? And why are they pushing so hard now?

The #1 reason I hear from cloud practitioners is: “Because my Management said so.” If you want to be successful, that answer is not good enough. You need to know why the company wants to use public cloud, so you know how they’re measuring success… and you.

Your boss, talking about cloud. Courtesy: Bryan Valenza

Why Public Cloud?

Why are most companies adopting cloud?

Agility.

They aspire to move faster than their competitors. Executives imagine that first to the cloud will get the “multi-cloud, serverless, Kubernetes, microservices, automated, agile, synergistic, digital transformation, IT modernization orgasm of profit!”*

Buzzwords aside, there are real benefits to cloud. It helps companies develop, deploy, and scale applications. It shifts technology costs from large irregular capital expenses to predictable operational expense. Underneath the hype, cloud has value. That’s why it’s growing.

* NOTE: These are actual statements from actual CEO/CIO/CFOs.

The Executive Conference Room for “Orgasm of Profit” Courtesy: Disney

Why Move Old Workloads to Public Cloud?

If the business wants to move forward faster, why spend time on legacy applications?

Critical Mass.

Companies have legacy environments, private cloud, and public cloud. The legacy runs the business. Most IT professionals are experts in one legacy discipline — e.g. compute, storage, networking. Since people want to feel useful, they focus on their silo in the legacy environment. That’s why the public cloud never gets enough attention from IT. The only way to drive critical mass to the cloud is to force IT to move the legacy applications to the cloud. And if that saves the company capital expense on equipment and data centers, bonuses for everyone!*

* NOTE: “Everyone” being only those with access to the conference room dedicated to the “orgasm of profit”.

The business pressure to move to cloud now is real. Courtesy: South Park

Why are Companies Moving NOW?

Why is management putting so much stress on moving to cloud now?

They’re not. It just feels that way. You moved the EASY workloads to the cloud. Moving the next workloads will be HARD. But the schedule is the same. That’s stressful.*

Executives have been pushing for agility and savings via cloud for years. First, companies adopted SaaS for basic functions. Second, they moved test and development to cloud. Third, they stored cold data in the cloud.

Now that you’ve done the “easy” work, it’s time for the hard job — moving real applications. Real applications keep persistent customer data in databases and files. Real applications are complex. Real applications need availability, security, data protection, and predictable performance. Real applications run the business. (Don’t panic, though. There are many real applications to move before getting to SAP and Oracle.)

Executives are hooked on cloud wins. Those wins “prove” that they’re innovating and beating the competition. The savings feel good, too. At each hardware refresh cycle, moving to the cloud cuts capital expenses. The savings from each cloud step funds the next one. It doesn’t matter that each step gets more difficult. Everything depends on the next hit of capital savings. That’s why executives need you to deliver the next step… now.

* NOTE: I took a class taught by Turing Award winner Michael Rabin. He spent half of each lecture covering simple arithmetic. At the end, he raced through complex math proofs. We asked why he spent so much time on the simple math vs. the hard math. His answer: “It’s all simple to me.” That’s how executives think about cloud. It’s all simple to them.

Most executives thought Spinal Tap was a documentary. Courtesy: knowyourmeme.com

Conclusion

Businesses need to move to the cloud to compete. It’s not enough to just build some cloud-native applications. They need critical mass on the cloud. That’s why they’re asking IT to migrate legacy workloads.

IT feels tremendous pressure from the business because the next cloud migrations will be hard. There are no more easy wins. You’ve done SaaS, test and development, and archive. Now, it’s time to move business applications. They’re complicated. They have data. They run the business. And they need to be moved now.

Congratulations on owning the cloud platform! Keep running, the train is always coming.

How to Begin Your Cloud Career

Codeword: Agile

The #1 question people used to ask: “How can I get management to buy into my idea?”

Now it’s: “How can I get management to buy into my idea about cloud?”

Then they talk about their attempts to sway their bosses. I’m not surprised they’re not succeeding. I’m surprised that they haven’t been fired.

Don’t jump in front of a runaway cloud train. Courtesy: Thomas the Tank Engine

What Not To Do

If you’re about to use any of these approaches, stop yourself. Even if you have tap into your inner Tyler Durden and knock yourself out.

 

Here’s Why It Won’t Work!!

You’ve seen the cloud plan. Your company has been playing with the cloud — test and development and some cloud-native toy applications. It’s gone well. Now they’re planning to run applications with data (aka — real applications).

Now is your moment! You warn everybody that there’s a looming disaster. There’s no plan for handling the storage failures (0.1% of devices) … or backup … or security. There’s no strategy to avoid vendor lock-in. And they sideline you. What?!

Lesson: Everybody has bought in, and you can’t stop the train. Nobody wants to hear why the train will derail. Instead of seeming wise, you sound like you’re protecting your job.

It’s Going to Be Too Expensive!!

This is a favorite criticism of the cloud. Especially from legacy IT vendors. The argument goes:

  • A well-run IT department can deliver the same services at a cheaper price.
  • You’re paying for flexibility in the cloud, so it must be more expensive.

Despite this wisdom, the business units ignore you.

Lesson: Cloud isn’t about cutting costs. Businesses are frustrated with IT’s lack of agility, and cloud lets them move faster. Since you’ve just aligned yourself with IT, you’re now “part of the problem”.

This is how the business thinks of IT. Courtesy: theodyssesyonline.com

If You Give Me 6 People and 6 months, I Can “Do It Right”

Businesses are already “swiping a credit card” and running in the cloud. You asked for a team of people and time to come up with a plan. That sounds like you’re using a legacy approach to design a new environment. They hear warning bells, and find somebody who will do it faster with fewer people.

Lesson: Executives like cloud because there’s no lead time. If you’re going to appeal to them, you can’t talk in quarters or even months. Think weeks.

It’s your boss when you bring up new tech. We both know it. Courtesy: imgflip.com

Let me Try this New Technology!

You know Docker, Kubernetes, and/or MongoDB would help the company develop applications faster. Somehow. You extol the virtues of Docker Overlay Networks, Kubernetes Stateful Sets, and eventual consistency NoSQL databases. Unfortunately, your boss refuses to commit and asks you to write up a report. You know nothing is going to happen.

Lesson: Your managers do not have grounding in the new technology, so they feel insecure. They were probably last “hands-on” with VMs. They’re not going to risk their necks for something they don’t understand.

Summary

Don’t be negative. Don’t be slow. Don’t make your boss feel stupid.

(Before you laugh, be honest. How many times have you broken these rules?)

Be Agile. Agile is Awesome! Courtesy: IDG Connect

What To Do

Be Agile. Agile is the term of the day. Executives, businesses, and managers love the word and what it symbolizes. Everybody wants to move faster and cheaper. Everybody wants to “Be Agile.”

To change your approach, follow this formula:

  1. Explain your business value (bonus points if you use the word agile!)
  2. Bring solutions to the problems

A More Resilient Cloud Makes the Business More Agile

Business Value: A more resilient cloud environment makes us more agile. With a resilient cloud, we can lift-and-shift existing applications. Without it, we need to re-architect everything to be cloud-native. That will be slow and expensive.

Problem: AWS has 0.1% Storage Failure Rate for Block Storage.

Solution: We should mirror the block devices. We should make backups on the resilient object storage in multiple clouds.

Don’t worry, business units will learn to love best practices. Courtesy: pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com

Centralized Cloud Best Practices Makes the Business More Agile

Business Value: Central management of the cloud makes us more agile. Business units won’t have to figure out what cloud configuration works best with trial and error. We’ll do that work, so they can focus on building revenue-generating applications.

Problem: Each business unit is buying their own cloud resources. There are billions of combinations. They don’t have the time to figure out what works best. They’re picking something and hoping it’s reasonable.

Solution: A small central team can work on best practices. We can even A-B test across groups to find out what works best.

Give your developers the cloud EASY button. Courtesy: concertocloud.com

A Simpler Cloud Makes Developers More Agile

Business Value: We can use cloud for more applications, if we give the application teams a more mature environment. Otherwise, they need to learn to build microservices before they’re productive.

Problem: The cloud lacks data management: availability, performance management, and data protection. The application teams have to build data management into their apps. The extra work slows them down.

Solution: We will build cloud data management, so more application developers can be productive.

You can help the lightbulb go on for your boss. Courtesy: Disney

New Technology Can Help Us Be More Agile With Cloud Providers

Business Value: Running in multiple clouds gives us leverage against any one vendor. We can run different applications in different clouds.

Problem: It’s a big learning curve to run in different clouds.

Solution: Technologies like Kubernetes and Docker can help virtualize the cloud. It does for public cloud what VMware did for servers. Let me just walk you through how it might work… (Now you have your chance to educate them!)

Conclusion

“How can I get management to buy into my idea about cloud?” is the right question. Cloud is the future.

You just need to know how to approach management. Don’t be “Dr. No” or “Dr. Slow”. That’s what they don’t like about IT. They’ve fought for cloud and they want people who will fight for them and their success.

Give them:

  • Agile Business Value
  • Problem
  • Solution

And if you think you’re saying “Agile” too often… you’re not. Don’t roll your eyes. Agility is the rare buzzword that actually delivers value to the business.

Agile is Awesome.

Merry Misadventures in the Public Cloud

Seven Costly Cloud Catastrophes in Seven Days

My first Amazon Web Services (AWS) bill shocked and embarrassed me. I feared I was the founding member of the “Are you &#%& serious, that’s my cloud bill?” club. I wasn’t. If you’ve recently joined, don’t worry. It’s growing every day.

The cloud preyed on my worst IT habits. I act without thinking. I overestimate the importance of my work (aka rampaging ego). I don’t clean up after myself. (Editor’s note: These bad habits extend beyond IT). The cloud turned those bad habits into zombie systems driving my bill to horrific levels.

When I joined Nuvoloso, I wanted to prove myself to the team. I volunteered to benchmark cloud storage products. All I needed to do was learn how to use AWS, Kubernetes, and Docker, so I could then install and test products I’d never heard of. I promised results in seven days. It’s amazing how much damage you can do in a week.

 

Sometimes too much is too much. Photo Credit: Danny Sullivan

Overprovisioning - Acting without Thinking

I overprovisioned my environment by 100x. The self-imposed urgency gave me an excuse to take shortcuts. Since I believed my on-premises storage expertise would apply to cloud, I ran full speed into my first two mistakes.

Mistake 1:Overprovisioned node type.

AWS has dozens of compute node configurations. Who has time to read all those specs? I was benchmarking storage, so I launched 5 “Storage Optimized” instances. Oops. They’re called “Storage Optimized” nodes because they offer better local storage performance. The cloud storage products don’t use local storage. I paid a 50% premium because I only read the label.

Mistake 2: Overprovisioned storage.

You buy on-premises storage in 10s or 100s of TB, so that’s how I bought cloud storage. I set a 4 TB quota of GP2 (AWS’ flash storage) for each of the 5 nodes — 20TB in total. The storage products, which had been built for on-premises environments, allocated all the storage. In fact, they doubled the allocation to do mirroring. In less than 5 minutes, I was paying for 40TB. It gets worse. The benchmark only used 40GB of data. I had so much capacity that the benchmark didn’t measure the performance of the products. I paid a 1000x premium for worthless results!

Eventually, you have to clean up the mess. Photo Credit: Reuters

Just Allocate A New Cluster - Ego

I allocated 4x as many Kubernetes clusters as I needed.

When you’re trying new products, you make mistakes. With on-premises systems, you have to fix the problem to make progress. You can’t ignore your burning tire fire and reserve new lab systems. If you try, your co-workers will freeze your car keys in mayonnaise (or worse).

The cloud eliminates resource constraints and peer pressure. You can always get more systems!

Mistakes 3 & 4: I’ll Debug that Later” / “Don’t Touch it, You’ll Break It!”

Day 1:Tuesday. I made mistakes setting up a 5-node Kubernetes cluster. I told myself I’d debug the issue later.

Day 2: Wednesday. I made mistakes installing a storage product on a new Kubernetes cluster. I told myself I’d debug the issue later.

Day 3: Thursday. I made mistakes installing the benchmark on yet another Kubernetes cluster running the storage. I told myself that I’d debug the issue later.

Day 4: Friday. Everything worked on the 4th cluster, and I ran my tests. I told myself that I was awesome.

Days 5 & 6 — Weekend. I told myself that I shouldn’t touch the running cluster because it took so long to setup. Somebody might want me to do something with it on Monday. Oh, and I’d debug the issues I’d hit later.

Day 7 — Monday. I saw my bill. I told myself that I’d better clean up NOW.

In one week, I had created 4 mega-clusters that generated worthless benchmark results and no debug information.

"Terminate Instance" - I do not think it means what you think it means. Photo Credit: Princess Bride

Clicking Delete Doesn't Mean It's Gone - Cleaning up after Myself

After cleaning up, I still paid for 40TB of storage for a week and 1 cluster for a month.

The maxim, “Nothing is ever deleted on the Internet” applies to the cloud. It’s easy to leave remnants behind, and those remnants can cost you.

Mistake 5: Cleaning up a Kubernetes cluster via the AWS GUI.

My horror story began when I terminated all my instances from the AWS console. As I was logging out, AWS spawned new instances to replace the old ones! I shut those down. More new ones came back. I deleted a subset of nodes. They came back. I spent two hours screaming silently, “Why won’t you die?!?!” Then I realized that the nodes kept spawning because that’s what Kubernetes does. It keeps your applications running, even when nodes fail. A search showed that deleting the AWS Auto Scaling Group would end my nightmare. (Today, I use kops to create and delete Kubernetes clusters).

Mistake 6: Deleting Instances does not always delete storage

After deleting the clusters, I looked for any excuse not to log into the cloud. When you work at a cloud company, you can’t hide out for long. A week later, I logged into the AWS for more punishment. I saw that I still had lots of storage (aka volumes). Deleting the instances hadn’t deleted the storage! The storage products I’d tested did not select the AWS option to delete the volume when terminating the node. I needed to delete the volumes myself.

Mistake 7: Clean Up Each Region

I created my first cluster in Northern Virginia. I’ve always liked that area. When I found out that AWS charges more for Northern Virginia, I made my next 3 clusters in Oregon. The AWS console splits the view by region. You guessed it. While freaking out about undead clusters, I forgot to delete the cluster in Northern Virginia! When the next month’s sky-high bill arrived, I corrected my final mistake (of that first week).

Welcome to the Family

Cloud can feel imaginary until that first bill hits you. Then things get real, solid, and painful. When that happens, welcome to the family of cloud experts! Cloud changes how we consume, deploy, and run IT. We’re going to make mistakes (hopefully not 7 catastrophic mistakes in one week), but we’ll learn together. I’m glad to be part of the cloud family. I don’t want to face those undead clusters alone. Bring your boomstick.

How I Found My Path to the Cloud

From the Storage Peak to Layoff Valley to the Cloud

“Dell EMC’s Data Protection Division won’t need a CTO in the future.”

I started 2017 as an SVP and CTO at the world’s largest on-premises infrastructure provider. I ended the year at a 10-person startup building data management for the public cloud. Like many, my journey to the cloud began with a kick in the gut. Like most, I have no idea how it will end.

The Dell layoff didn’t depress me. I’d seen the budget cut targets, so I kånew I wasn’t alone. The layoff felt personal rather than professional, so my ego wasn’t bruised. Since cloud is eating the on-premises infrastructure market, I’d wanted to move. Since I’d always had my choice of jobs, I looked forward to new opportunities.

Searching for a Job, Finding Despair

The job hunt, however, plunged me into the chasm of despair. I wanted to be cutting edge, so I applied to cloud providers and SaaS vendors. What’s worse than companies rejecting you? Companies never responding. Even with glowing internal introductions from former colleagues, I heard nothing. No interview. No acknowledgement. Not even rejection. My on-premises background made me invisible. Then, I applied to software companies moving to the cloud. They interviewed me. They rejected me for candidates with “cloud” expertise. My on-premises background made me undesirable. Legacy infrastructure companies called, but I needed to build a career for the next 20 years, not to cling to a job for 5 more years. For the first time in my working life, I worried about becoming obsolete.

Finding Hope in Cloud

Then I found hope. I met a recently “promoted” Cloud Architect whose boss wanted him to “move IT to cloud”. His angst-ridden story sounded familiar: change-resistant organization, insufficient investment, and unsatisfactory tools. He couldn’t deliver data protection, data compliance and security, data availability, or performance. He couldn’t afford to build custom data management solutions. The business didn’t even want to think about it. They did, however, expect an answer.

I realized data management was my ticket into the cloud. Even in cloud, data management problems don’t go away. The problems I know how to solve still matter. In fact, expanding digitization and new regulations (e.g. GDPR, ePrivacy Directive) make solving those problems more important. Even better, the public cloud’s architecture opens better ways to build data management. Electricity surged through me. Cloud gave me the opportunity to build the data management solution I’d spent my career trying to create. Now, I needed to find a place to build it.

The Future is Nuvoloso

Nuvoloso, our startup, wants to help people like me get to the cloud. Individually, each member of the team has built data management for client-server, appliances, and virtualization. Now, together, we’re building data management for cloud. The requirements don’t change, but the solutions must. Each of us adds value with our existing skills, while learning about the public cloud. Our product will enable infrastructure IT professionals to follow our path. We will help them use their experience to add value and get a foothold in the cloud.

The journey to the cloud still ties my stomach in knots. When I started at Nuvoloso, I felt helpless and terrified. Cloud took everything I knew, and changed it just enough to confuse me. As I’ve adjusted, I feel helpful, excited and (still) terrified. Public cloud is real. Public cloud changes how businesses buy and use technology. Public cloud does not, however, eliminate the requirements for data management; it amplifies it. Public cloud will not replace us. Public cloud needs our skills and experience. No matter where the applications run, somebody needs to manage the data infrastructure.

Your journey to the cloud may begin with a project, a promotion, or (like me) a layoff. Regardless of how you start, remember: There’s a future for people like us.